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Santana v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 30, 2014

JOSE M. SANTANA, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee-Plaintiff

APPEAL FROM THE ELKHART SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Thomas Murto, Magistrate. Cause No. 20D04-1112-FC-34.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: PETER D. TODD, Elkhart, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana; J.T. WHITEHEAD, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

MAY, Judge. VAIDIK, C.J., and RILEY, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 77

MAY, Judge.

Jose M. Santana appeals his conviction of Class C felony operating a motor vehicle while privileges are forfeited for life.[1] As the police had reasonable suspicion to stop Santana, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 4, 2011, Goshen police officer Todd Burks saw a pick-up truck Santana was driving in Goshen, Indiana. He ran the license plate information for the truck, but he omitted one digit from the plate number and the result came back " Not on File." [2] (Tr. at 6.) Officer Burks followed the truck and saw it turn 100 to 150 feet after the turn signal was activated. Ind. Code § 9-21-8-25 requires: " A signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last two hundred (200) feet traveled by a vehicle before turning or changing lanes."

Officer Burks pulled the truck over and asked Santana for his license. Santana said he did not have a license, and Officer Burks asked if he had any kind of identification. Santana produced a Mexican voter registration card with his photograph. Officer Burks asked for the registration of the truck. He entered the number properly and discovered the registration was valid. However, Officer Burks arrested Santana after he determined Santana had been adjudicated an Habitual Traffic Offender such that his driving privileges were forfeited for life.

The State charged Santana with Class C felony operating a motor vehicle while privileges were forfeited for life. Santana filed a Motion to Suppress, arguing Officer Burks did not have a valid basis for stopping his truck. The trial court denied the motion and, during the trial, Santana lodged a continuing objection to the validity

Page 78

of the stop. After a bench trial, Santana was found guilty.

DISCUSSION AND DECISION

Our standard for review of rulings on the admissibility of evidence is essentially the same whether the challenge is made by a pre-trial motion to suppress or by trial objection. Turner v. State, 862 N.E.2d 695, 699 (Ind.Ct.App. 2007). We do not reweigh the evidence, and we consider conflicting evidence most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Id. However, we must also consider the uncontested evidence favorable to the defendant. Id.

Police officers may stop a vehicle when they observe minor traffic violations.[3] Id. A stop is lawful if there is an objectively justifiable reason for it, and a stop may be justified on less than probable cause. Id. If there is an objectively justifiable reason, then the stop is valid whether or not the police officer would have otherwise made the stop but for ulterior suspicions or motives. Id. at 699-700.

The trial court heard evidence Santana committed a traffic violation that would permit a lawful traffic stop. Officer Burks testified Santana did not signal for the proper distance before turning, but Santana argues the evidence shows there was " a real possibility" he could have signaled " at the two hundred and fifteen foot (215) mark." (Appellant's Br. at 6.) Santana's argument is a request to reweigh the evidence, which we may not do, see Turner, 862 N.E.2d at 699, and we accordingly affirm. See Haynes v. State, 937 N.E.2d 1248, 1253 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010) (officer's testimony of traffic infraction sufficient to justify traffic stop), trans. denied .

Affirmed.

VAIDIK, C.J., and RILEY, J., concur.


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